Scouting Whitetail Deer – Practice Makes Perfect

Here’s what I came away with from my most recent scouting trip on public land in Florida.

I arrived at the conservation area this morning at 8:20am with the intent of doing some scouting for Whitetail deer or wild hog signs in a particular area of the nearby wildlife management area. While still in the parking lot, a sheriff pulled up in a pick up truck and we started talking. He was very familiar with the area and its wildlife and gave me some valuable tips on where to hunt and tactics to use. He asked what I would be hunting with and when I told him a muzzleloader, he then asked if it was 50 caliber and I said “Yes”. To which he responded, “You’ll do well, a 50 caliber will drop ‘em right in their tracks.”

I started my deer and hog scouting trip by heading north up the two mile long hunter’s corridor on my mountain bike to reach the entrance of the wildlife management area. I entered the second gate at a location the sheriff referred to as being called Six Mile Canal.

I rode the two track trail that ran along the top edge of the canal. I hadn’t gone but a hundred yards when I discovered a place where a cut had been made across the canal through both banks and had lots of freshly trampled and turned up dirt. I concluded this was a crossing made to allow the cattle in the area to move freely from one side of the canal to the other.

Having learned a muddy lesson from my first visit to this WMA, I was now wearing rubber boots and was able to get off the mountain bike and make my way down into the canal to find out if deer or wild hogs were also using this cut through to cross the canal. There along the water’s edge I found, what I believe, were pig tracks, although I admit I’m still learning to tell the difference between pig tracks and deer tracks. Either way, both are my target.

These tracks were very exciting for me at first but later proved to be a disappointment because it turned out they were the only animal signs I found during my two and half hours spent searching for evidence of the animals I would be hunting come fall.

On a positive note, however, it’s only spring time and I’ve got seven more months to learn and practice the scouting techniques I’ll need to find these animals. Personally, I can’t wait for the day that my deer and hog scouting skills are refined to the point that I’m able to actually spot the animals themselves.

To sit somewhere, camouflaged, looking through binoculars at deer or wild hogs that are unaware of my presence will be, for me, an accomplishment nearly as exciting as the day when I’ll be taking aim at them.